As it becomes apparent that our current system of globalized food production is both unhealthy and untenable, competitions have emerged to find ways to bring local food to urban neighborhoods. Earlier this month, Redesign Your Farmer’s Market competition winner proposed turning food trucks into makeshift farmer’s markets. Now the grand prize winner of Resilient City’s Design Ideas Competition, “From the Ground on Up,” proposes a hierarchy of food production and processing centers in West Side, a neighborhood in Newark, New Jersey.
According to designers Michael Haggerty and Raj Komatsu, “Opportunities for novelty are most abundant when systems re-organize. Using some resilience thinking of our own, we began to see fertile ground in spaces like vacant lots and pot-holed streets, usually thought of as signs of urban failure.” So the designers propose the use of vacant lots as “microsheds,” or walkable areas where the ground has been reclaimed for food production. A series of microsheds, processing, and production centers are sprinkled around unused or abandoned areas in the city, while food carts and markets act as points of distribution.
“From the Ground on Up” was chosen as Resilient City’s $1,000 competition winner thanks to its do-ability, but who would pay for such a system? In a cash-strapped city like Newark, finding the resources to begin a massive neighborhood food project won’t be easy. But as cities are increasingly hit with business closures–and others, like Detroit, deal with whole industries shuttering–such a grassroots system might just be the best way to localize food production.